Success grows out of struggles to overcome difficulties.--Smiles

He who follows two hares is sure to catch neither.--Franklin

The important thing in life is to have a great aim and the determination

to attain it.--Goethe

A healthy definite purpose is a remedy for a thousand ills.

--O. S. Marden

The evidence of superior genius is the power of intellectual

concentration.--B. R. Hayden

Concentration begins with the habit of attention. The highest success in

learning depends on the power of the learner to command and hold his own

attention,--on his ability to concentrate his thought on the subject

before him. By the words "habit of attention," we do not mean here the

outward, respectful attitude of a docile pupil who listens when his

teacher speaks, but something much rarer, much more important, and far

more difficult of attainment. We mean that power of the mind by which a

person is able to give an intelligent account of what is said, whether

in conversation, in lecture, or in sermon; which enables him to grasp at

one reading the important points of a problem or a paragraph; and which

makes it possible for a student or a reader to so concentrate his

attention on what he is doing as to be entirely oblivious, so long as it

does not concern him, of what is going on around him.

This is the age of concentration or specialization of energy. The

problem of the day is to get ten-horse power out of an engine that shall

occupy the space of a one-horse power engine, and no more. Just so

society demands a ten-man power out of one individual. It crowns the man

who knows one thing supremely, and can do it better than anybody else,

even if it be only the art of raising turnips. If he raises the best

turnips by reason of concentrating all his energy to that end, he is a

benefactor to the race, and is recognized as such. The giants of the

race have been men of concentration, who have struck all their blows in

one place until they have accomplished their purpose. The successful men

of today are men of one overmastering idea, one unwavering aim, men of

single and intense purpose. "Scatteration" is the curse of American

business life. Too many are like Douglas Jerrold's friend, who could

converse in twenty-four languages, but had no ideas to express in any

one of them.

"The weakest living creature," says Carlyle, "by concentrating his

powers on a single object, can accomplish something; whereas the

strongest, by dispersing his over many, may fail to accomplish anything.

The drop, by continually falling, bores its passage through the hardest

rock. The hasty torrent rushes over it with hideous uproar and leaves no

trace behind."

It is interesting to read how, with an immense procession passing up

Broadway, the streets lined with people, and the bands playing their

loudest, Horace Greeley would sit upon the steps of the Astor House, use

the top of his hat for a desk, and write an editorial for the New York

_Tribune_ which would be quoted all over the country; and there are

many incidents in his career which go to show that his wonderful power

of concentration was one of the great secrets of his success.

Men who have the right kind of material in them will assert their

personality, and rise in spite of a thousand adverse circumstances. You

cannot keep them down. Every obstacle seems only to add their ability to

get on. The youth Opie earned his bread by sawing wood, but he reached a

professorship in the Royal Academy. When but ten years old he showed the

material he was made of by a beautiful drawing on a shingle. Antonio

Canova was a son of a day laborer; Thorwaldsen's parents were poor; but,

like hundreds of others, these men did with their might what their hands

found to do, and ennobled their work. They rose by being greater than

their calling.

It is fashionable to ridicule the man of one idea; but the men who have

changed the face of the world have been men of a single aim. No man can

make his mark on this age of specialities who is not a man of one idea,

one supreme aim, one master passion. The man who would make himself felt

on this bustling planet, must play all his guns on one point. A wavering

aim, a faltering purpose, will have no place in the twentieth century.

"Mental shiftlessness" is the cause of many a failure. The world is full

of unsuccessful men who spend their lives letting empty buckets down

into empty wells.

As opposed to men of the latter class, what a sublime picture of

determination and patience was that of Charles Goodyear, of New Haven,

buried in poverty and struggling with hardships for eleven long years,

to make India rubber of practical use! See him in prison for debt;

pawning his clothes and his wife's jewelry to get a little money to buy

food for his children, who were obliged to gather sticks in the field

for fire. Observe the sublime courage and devotion to his idea, when he

had no money to bury a dead child, and when his other five were near

starvation; when his neighbors were harshly criticising him for his

neglect of his family, and calling him insane. But, behold his

vulcanized rubber; the result of that heroic struggle, applied to

thousands of uses by over sixty thousand employees.

A German knight undertook to make an immense Aeolian harp by stretching

wires from tower to tower of his castle. When he finished the harp it

was silent; but when the breezes began to blow he heard faint strains

like the murmuring of distant music. At last a tempest arose and swept

with fury over his castle, and then rich and grand music came from the

wires. Ordinary experiences do not seem to touch some lives, to bring

out their higher manhood; but when patience and firmness bring forth

their fruit it is always of the very finest quality.

It is good to know that great people have done great things through

concentration; but it is better still to know that concentration belongs

to the everyday life of the everyday boy and girl. Only they must not be

selfish about it. Understand the work in hand before it is begun. Don't

think of anything else while doing it; and don't dream when learning a

lesson. Do one thing at a time and do it quickly and thoroughly. "I go

at what I am about," said Charles Kingsley, "as if there was nothing

else in the world for the time being." That's the secret of the success

of all hard-working men.

S. T. Coleridge possessed marvelous powers of mind, but he had no

definite purpose; he lived in an atmosphere of mental dissipation, which

consumed his energy and exhausted his stamina, and his life was in many

respects a miserable failure. He lived in dreams and died in reverie. He

was continually forming plans and resolutions, but to the day of his

death they remained resolutions and plans. He was always just going to

do something, but never did it. "Coleridge is dead," wrote Charles Lamb

to a friend, "and is said to have left behind him above forty thousand

treatises on metaphysics and divinity--not one of them complete!"

Commodore MacDonough, on Lake Champlain, concentrated the fire of all

his vessels upon the "big ship" of Downie, regardless of the fact that

the other British ships were all hurling cannon balls at his little

fleet. The guns of the big ship were silenced, and then the others were

taken care of easily.

By exercising this art of concentration in a higher degree than did his

brother generals, Grant was able to bring the Civil War to a speedy

termination. This trait was strongly marked in the character of

Washington. The same is true in regard to General Armstrong and the

Hampton Institute. That stands as a living monument to his power of

concentration. He had a great purpose: the education of the Negro and

Indian races; and from the close of the Civil War to the day of his

death he labored steadily at that one undertaking, and now the whole

country is proud of the outcome of his toil.

People who have concentration never make excuses. They get more done

than others, and have a better time doing it. Excuses are signs of

shiftlessness. They do not answer in play any better than in lessons or

business. Who ever heard of excuses in football-playing? When we go into

all our duties with the same earnestness and devotion, we shall find

ourselves rapidly rising into one of those foremost places which most of

us so greatly desire.


Few men in this century have followed a single purpose through their

entire lives with greater devotion than the famous missionary and

explorer, David Livingstone.

He was born in Scotland, March 19, 1813, of poor parents. He loved books

as a boy, studied hard to know about rocks and plants, worked in a

cotton mill and earned money to go to a medical school. He was honest,

helped his mother, and read all the books he could. "My reading in the

factory," he said, "was carried on by placing the book on a portion of

the spinning-jenny, so that I could catch sentence after sentence as I

passed at my work. I thus kept up a pretty constant study, undisturbed

by the roar of machinery."

Very early Livingstone began to think about being a missionary. He read

about travels in Africa, about the work of Henry Martyn, and about the

Moravian missions. He heard about China and the need of medical

missionaries there; and he says that "from this time my efforts were

constantly devoted toward this object without any fluctuation."

Livingstone wanted to go to China; but he met Dr. Moffat, who was then

home from Africa, and was persuaded to change his plans. Early in 1841

he reached Algoa Bay, at the south end of Africa. Then he went to Dr.

Moffat's mission station at Kuruman; but here he found the missionaries

did not work well together, that there were more men than work, so he

pushed on into regions where no one had been before. "I really am

ambitious," he wrote, "to preach beyond other men's lines. I am

determined to go on, and do all I can, while able, for the poor,

degraded people in the North."

This feeling sent him into the great wilderness to find what

opportunities it afforded. In 1852 he started on his first great

journey, made more discoveries, and crossed Africa from east to west,

and then back again to the east coast. It was hard work; many were the

difficulties; and his life was often in peril. Yet he saw Africa as no

one before had seen it; and when he returned to England in 1857 he found

himself famous, honored on every hand, and everybody ready to help on

his great and noble work.

In 1859 he returned to Africa with men and money to explore further,

and to see what could be done for the good of the country. He explored

the Zambezi river, on the east coast; and became familiar with that side

of Africa,--its people, rivers, lakes, and mountains. He returned home

in 1864, but went back the next year to seek out the source of the Nile.

In 1865 he started on his longest and last journey, going this time to

the northwest. This was the hardest and most perilous of all his

journeys; for he was often sick, his men were not faithful, the

country was in a state of war, his money gave out; and he was in a

very bad condition when Henry M. Stanley found him in 1871.

Stanley furnished him with money and men, and he started again for the

great interior region to discover the source of the Nile, and then to

return home and die. He was now sixty years old, his health had given

way, but he persisted in the effort to finish his work. He grew weaker

from month to month, but would not turn back. Finally, on May 1, 1873,

his men found him on his knees in his tent, dead; but the results of his

patient and persevering efforts will never die.

[Footnote: Consult Livingstone's "Last Journals" (1874); Blaikie's

"Life of Livingstone;" and Stanley's "How I found Livingstone" (1873).]